Boost for poorest children – but more needed, says campaigner

Some of the poorest children in Brighton and Hove could be given a £25,000 boost as campaigners and councillors look to improve their performance at school.

Sussex University research fellow Carlie Goldsmith, who grew up in Whitehawk, said that more work was needed to give working class children a better chance.

Dr Goldsmith, who addressed councillors on behalf of campaign group Class Divide, said today that she welcomed the prospect of a strategy for helping disadvantaged children.

But she was disappointed at the lack of a specific plan for young people living in Whitehawk, Manor Farm and the Bristol Estate.

Green councillor Hannah Clare said that Brighton and Hove City Council had approved spending £25,000 on a strategy to help disadvantaged children.

Councillor Clare, who chairs the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee, said that further details would be published in June.

She told a virtual meeting of the committee today (Monday 8 March) that a cross-party working group would work alongside the community and experts in the field, including Class Divide.

Councillor Clare said: “Improving the lives of disadvantaged young people in our city is a priority and one that for too long has not progressed as far as it should have.”

After the meeting Dr Goldsmith said: “There was no mention of support for adults wanting to reconnect with learning, nor any mention of support for families navigating the education system.

“This inequality impacts all of us. It means we are not using the drive, ambition and talent we know that is found in the children and young people growing up on social housing estates – and not just ours (but) estates across the country.

“Given the multiple crises and the radical changes that must take place to build a future that provides for all safely and sustainably, this is a criminal waste that leaves our city and this country weaker. We must do better.”

Dr Goldsmith led a deputation to a meeting of the full council in January when she called on councillors and officials to close the gaps between children on the estates of east Brighton and those from the wealthier parts of the area.

She said that children from Whitehawk, Manor Farm and the Bristol Estate left school with much worse grades and were twice as likely to be excluded from school.

And she described herself as “getting an education by accident” while the rest of her family did not achieve basic grades.

Class Divide’s request five requests to narrow the gaps went before the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee today.

The five requests were

  • An annual report to the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee on the school outcomes for young people living in Whitehawk, Manor Farm and the Bristol Estate
  • An action plan to address education inequalities, with an annual review
  • Training for school leaders and staff on the experiences of working-class children
  • A move away from exclusions and placing children in alternative schools and more local learning and training opportunities and support for parents struggling to keep their children in school
  • Support for people to have a second chance by providing learning and training opportunities

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